Who Owns HULAWEEN Now?!

Suwannee Hulaween fans have been on edge lately with the slight talk of budget issues from last year’s event, and almost no talk of the future of the festival. The Hulaween Facebook group has been full of people questioning, “So when are we getting a Hulaween announcement?” Just a few hours ago, we all got some news that left us worried about the answer to that question. 

Monday afternoon, Silver Wrapper announced that they are closing doors with the following statement on Facebook:

Thank you all so much for the last 20 years.

Over the course of the past two decades, the live music community and business entity known as Silver Wrapper has flowered in magnificent ways from a seed originally planted by founders Ed Walsh, Sam Burick and Rick Smartt. The debut Silver Wrapper show took place on May 18, 1999 at Subterranean and was headlined by the legendary Melvin Sparks. That night would start a movement that leaves a legacy of concerts, events, festivals and parties that span twenty years. Silver Wrapper’s early aesthetic was focused on high energy, danceable, improvisational jazz, funk and soul music from around the world. Events were influenced by the spirit and party culture of New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, and anywhere else that people wanted to dance all night to live music. The original mission was to provide a positive, life-changing experience for music lovers with every event that Silver Wrapper produced – subtle for some, dramatic for others. These early events appealed to an eclectic mix of party-goers – from Grateful Dead and Phish fans looking to expand their horizons, to club kids that wanted a dance party, to beat-head record collectors that wanted to see their favorite sampled artists in a live setting.

Over time, the tastes of the Chicago and Midwest music communities continued to evolve and expand to include elements of Dance, Electronic, Jam, Rock, Reggae, Hip-Hop, R&B, Americana, Indie and Bluegrass. Our tastes evolved as well. In the early 2000’s, Ed and Rick became friends with Leif Moravy and Michael Berg while collaborating on various events. Leif and Michael’s talent, shared passion for music, and desire to provide a great experience to fans made them a natural choice for Rick and Ed to offer partnership in Silver Wrapper and let them take the reins. Leif and Michael took over as managing partners and talent buyers, and ever since, have led Silver Wrapper through its growth to the next level.

Even with new fans, new genres, and ever-changing venues, Silver Wrapper continued to connect music lovers to talented, highly musical performers, while always striving to provide the best possible concert experience for both fans and artists. As electronic artists started to incorporate live instrumentation into their recordings and performances, Silver Wrapper was eager to connect open-minded music lovers with forward thinking artists and cultivate a scene for this growing genre to flourish.

In 2005, Silver Wrapper was given the opportunity to partner in one of Chicago’s classic neighborhood street festivals, Wicker Park Fest. Traditionally, street fests had been about beer, food, and cover bands. Silver Wrapper was selected to program one of the stages and true to Silver Wrapper’s nature, we rolled the dice and brought in original and eclectic artists from all over the world. The experiment showed Chicago that people would come out to see talented and artistically diverse musical acts – and still drink a lot of beer. After Wicker Park Fest, Silver Wrapper went on to curate the talent at Taste of Randolph and other street festivals.

Silver Wrapper has had the privilege of producing, marketing, or partnering on events at some of the greatest venues of all sizes in and around Chicago – Schubas, The Hot House, Martyrs, The Blue Note, Beat Kitchen, Subterranean, The Kinetic Playground, Chop Shop, Lincoln Hall, Double Door, Bottom Lounge, Lakeshore Theater, Concord, Metro, The Vic, Park West, Thalia Hall, House of Blues, The Riviera Theater, The Chicago Theater, The Congress Theater, Aragon Ballroom, Navy Pier, The Rosemont Convention Center, boats, parks, and even the streets.

In 2010, Silver Wrapper, with a handful of other partners, launched North Coast Music Festival in Chicago, which is now entering its 10th year. In 2013, some of the Silver Wrapper partners, along with Paul Levine, branched out to launch the Florida rendition of The String Cheese Incident’s annual Halloween celebration, Suwannee Hulaween. The diverse musical sensibilities and production quality gave fans from North Florida, the Southeast region, and folks from around the globe an unparalleled Halloween weekend experience. The Silver Wrapper team also produced Tipper & Friends events, Fool’s Paradise, Live In Lincoln Park, and a handful of Riverboat shows in New Orleans during Jazz Fest.

As Silver Wrapper grew, so did the need for a talented team. As a fan, it may be easy to go to a festival or club show and not realize the effort, patience, skill, and attention to detail that go into producing a successful event. If you’ve been at a Silver Wrapper event, and the music sounded good in your ears, and the vibe was right, you may have seen one of us there, behind the scenes, hustling to make you smile and dance. Silver Wrapper has been fortunate to have some incredible, loyal people join our team and family over the years to help actualize this. Words cannot express the appreciation that we have for Tara Huelsebusch, Dan Rucinski and Woo Park who started early on, and grew into department head roles, plus others who worked on their teams such as Annah Garrett, Chris Hemstreet, Cathy Sanchez, Michael Koltun, and Hector Pacheco as well as a handful of other members and street teamers who all contributed along the way. They are all incredibly talented, hard-working, and committed to excellence – make no mistake, they have all been integral in the growth and success of Silver Wrapper.

Silver Wrapper started with several acts at the “baby band” level, and we collectively grew together over the years. Many became festival headliners: Bassnectar, ODESZA, Rufus Du Sol, Disclosure, Pretty Lights, Greensky Bluegrass, The Revivalists, Tipper & GRiZ. Over the years, Silver Wrapper had the honor and privilege within its portfolio of events to work with, and/or host such legendary other names as Jamiroquai, Chance the Rapper, Snoop Dogg, Kid Cudi, My Morning Jacket, Anderson .Paak, Ween, Big Gigantic, The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee, Wu Tang Clan, Damien Marley, The Chemical Brothers, STS9, D’Angelo, Nas, Deadmau5, Logic, Vulfpeck, The Disco Biscuits, Dawes, Zedd, Gucci Mane, Janelle Monae, Primus, Run The Jewels, NGHTMRE, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, the late Mac Miller and countless others.

The world is constantly changing, and the business of entertaining people has changed a lot in the last twenty years. We’ve enjoyed this process of providing amusement, and making people happy over those years, but it’s time for Silver Wrapper to step aside and let the next generation of ambitious, talented, creative music fans step up and make their mark on Chicago and the world. The reality is that the quality of experience that we want to provide to music fans and the artists/teams that we work with is no longer a sustainable business model for Silver Wrapper.

Silver Wrapper appreciates everything that the music community provides, and we are proud to have been able to give back for all these years. We hope the work we did helped to create an outlet for music fans to find happiness & distraction from their daily routines and struggles of the real world. We hope to leave behind, a brand legacy of us being an organization that put fans and artists first. We truly are music fans and creatives at our core, and that may be what drew us to this whole crazy world in the first place.

Even with the Silver Wrapper brand taking a final bow, have no doubt that everyone that is part of Silver Wrapper will continue to be a part of entertaining people. We have all learned so much over the years and have made so many great friends in the Silver Wrapper community. We all live and breathe music – and this industry, period. It was our honor and pleasure to service the Silver Wrapper music community, and albeit under different entities, brands or outlets, and not all together as one, we plan to continue this 20-year tradition well into the future.

These last months of shows will be very special to us as we wrap up an era of the Chicago music scene and two decades of concerts together. The final show coincidentally lands 20 years to the day from the debut Silver Wrapper event, at the Riviera Theater with Snarky Puppy on May 18, 2019. We truly hope you can join us that night, or along the way, as you have this entire ride.

We extend huge gratitude to every single one of the artists, agents, managers, venues, tour managers, merch people, crew members, co-promoters, and most importantly, the fans who made up the Silver Wrapper family. Sincerely, and deeply from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!”

This left many people devastated, but ultimately very thankful for all of the memories Silver Wrapper has helped create within the music scene. Now the big question is…

What Does This Mean for Hulaween?

One managing partner of Suwannee Hulaween, Paul Levine, has been actively letting everyone know in the Hulaween Facebook group that the festival will indeed go on. Michael Harrison Berg, another managing partner of Hulaween, even responded to a comment under Silver Wrapper’s statement saying, “Hula is happening. Mark it.”

So at least there is some good news here, but now we are all wondering, “Who did they sell the festival to?” There has been speculation that Live Nation possibly took this one, but nothing has been confirmed yet. One can only assume now that this big cat is out of the bag, we will start to see some Hulaween news and announcements very soon.

Hold tight Hula fam. We’re going home one way or another.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *